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Dashes And Underscores no longer make a difference

     
5:19 pm on Feb 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I pretty much have come to the conclusion that dashes and underscores no longer make a difference. Everyone use to always preach that hyphens are the way to go because google does not see them and counts them as a space. Also that if you used say keyword1_keyword2 that the only way it would come up is if you did keyword1_keyword2.

This no longer applies from what I can tell in google or yahoo. Now yes if you use the allinurl: search on google you will not see underscored filenames. But when doing regular searches say using keyword1 and keyword3 I still see google and yahoo finding the file with keyword1_keyword2.

Does this mean hyphens really have no extra bonus anymore? Also are there any search engines that started bumping down pages that used to many hyphens within a file name?

I personally just do not see any real difference in rankings when using underscores or hyphens. Seem to be just a problem of the past.

9:03 pm on Feb 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to WebmasterWorld, infecto.

It seems that Google still treat a dash as a space and an underscore as an underscore. So "blue-widgets" in the page matches searches for "blue widgets" and "blue-widgets"; but "blue_widgets" in the page matches searches for "blue_widgets" and not "blue widgets".

[google.com...]
[google.com...]

[google.com...]
[google.com...]

In Yahoo!, however, a page with blue_widgets seems to match searches for blue widgets, blue-widgets and blue_widgets; while a search for blue_widgets seems only to match blue_widgets.

[search.yahoo.com...]
[search.yahoo.com...]

[search.yahoo.com...]
[search.yahoo.com...]

9:48 pm on Feb 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts on his blog advised staying away from underscores.

You don't need to use either an underscore or a dash, the search engines can parse the words without any spaces.

10:42 am on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I agree, life is easier without underscores (unless your potentail visitors search with underscores).

> search engines can parse the words without any spaces

I'm not quite sure what you mean Kufu. "bluewidgets" in the page matches a search for "bluewidgets". "blue widgets" or "blue-widgets" are needed in the paqe to match a search for "blue widgets".

10:45 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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ciml,

Basically one doesn't need to separate the words for the search engine to be able to identify them.

if you have bluewidgets.html as a file name, the engines will be able to parse it as being "blue" and "widgets" and not "bluewid" and "ets". Now these are not perfect rules for example if you have "widgetsite.html" you can have both "widget" and "widgets" in there even though the 's' really goes with "site". For example if your search for "widgets" brings up www.yourdomain.com/widgetsite.html the part where it says "widgets" will be bold in the green URL below the SERPs (Google).

I hope this made sense. :)

3:01 am on Mar 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It makes sense kufu, but I'm not quite in agreement. :-)

Notice the different results between these two searches, and the space between between 'forum' and '34'.

[google.com...]

[google.com...]

11:23 pm on Mar 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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ciml,

You are using the wrong examples. This is what you should be using:

[google.com...]

[google.com...]

What makes your example different is the missing '/' not the '-' :)

I could be wrong though.

11:33 pm on Mar 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Isn't the difference in your example that (in some cases) Google treats word-hyphen as wordhyphen?

E.g.

[google.com...]

[google.com...]
(compare with [google.com...] )

I don't think the underscore handling has changed in any case, as google still seems to treat that as a character all of its own:

[google.com...]

9:22 pm on Mar 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Agreed pixel_juice.

kufu, we also agree if we say "one doesn't need to separate the words for the search engine to be able to identify them", as long as the users search with hyphens instead of spaces.

6:06 pm on Mar 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Basically one doesn't need to separate the words for the search engine to be able to identify them.

This myth is repeated periodically in various forums. The reason people tend to believe this myth is that they think that Google SERPs highlighting has something to do with how Google parses words for indexing.

In fact, Google SERPs highlighting consists of simple text substitution and is in no way indicative how how keywords are parsed for indexing.

Thus, for example (and I hope rather harmless specific searches/URLs may be forgiven to prove this very specific point), one can search for

site:www.mysql.com my

and the Google SERPs will highlight "my" when it appears in "www.mysql.com" in the SERPs listing. And then one can search for

site:www.mysql.com mys

and (because there happens to exist at least one page in that domain with the nonsense word "mys"), the Google SERPs will highlight "mys" when it appears in "www.mysql.com" in the listings.

If the naive belief that highlighting in the SERPs indicates how Google parses keywords were true, we should then be able to Google for this term:

inurl:mys "initiative to migrate to MySQL and the open source LAMP stack"

and find that among the hits is the mysql.com page containing this lengthy exact phrase. In fact, Google finds no hits for this search. Finally, as a sanity check, we Google for:

inurl:mysql "initiative to migrate to MySQL and the open source LAMP stack"

and find that it does find the exact page in the mysql.com domain containing that lengthy phrase.

It is therefore easy to see that the fact that Google may highlight the string "mys" in the SERPs text containing "www.mysql.com" in no way means that it ever parsed or indexed "mysql" as though it contained a separate word called "mys". It did not. Likewise, it never parsed or indexed "mysql" as though it contained a separate word called "my", as can be verified by searching for:

inurl:my "initiative to migrate to MySQL and the open source LAMP stack"

The quoted assertion is, therefore, definitely not true. You absolutely cannot run words together in text, URLs, or anywhere else and expect Google to parse them as multiple words.

Stemming and other simple grammar transforms are another issue, of course. Many search engines are happy to see the word "homes" and index it as "home", "homes", or both.

6:41 am on Apr 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well said and to the point.